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Thursday, May 22, 2014

Agape Love

The Highest Form of Love

       The Greek word agape is often translated as “unconditional love.”   I am not sure that this adequately describes the agape love of God. Agape love is unique and distinguished by its very nature and character. It is the love that God gives humanity. It is a self-sacrificial love given freely and willingly. The cross of Jesus Christ is the greatest act of love the world has ever known. In spite of our sinfulness and ways, God sent His Son Jesus to die for our sin so we can be restored to the Father without condition. Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13 Jesus spoke this before He did it. To show the extent of God's love, Jesus laid down His life for us! He was promised nothing. Agape love is given without a promise that it will be returned. In spite of the heartache of letting His only begotten Son suffer and die on the cross, God did it to redeem humanity who were created in His own image and likeness. God in the Person of His Son Jesus confined Himself in human skin, felt our feelings and weaknesses and yet was without sin. He had to remain sinless in order to pay the penalty of death for sin instituted in the Older Testament.  Only One who is God could do this and God knew that when He gave the instructions to Moses.  There is no greater love than this.
       God's love isn't based upon a feeling like human love. God loves because He must since He is love. (1 John 4:8)  It is His very nature. His is a heavenly love, not an earthly one. God loves because it expresses His nature and His being. Human love can be fickle and unsteady, but not God's love. God never changes. Therefore, His love never changes. It can never be more or less. It is eternal. Human love can change because of emotions or circumstances, but a Godlike love is unchangeable in spite of the circumstances or emotions. All that God does flows from His love even His discipline and correction. Love is the motivation behind all of His other attributes including His hatred and wrath against sin and wickedness.  In order for peace to come and love and righteousness reign, God must remove sin and wickedness.  
       One can't fall into or out of agape love – it is a choice. And the only way we can develop agape love is from the Source. Love is the crowning virtue in the description of love in 1 Corinthians 13. “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking. It is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. …..... Now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” Because God is love, He exhibits all of these toward us. And, it is His desire to bring us to this Godlike love also so we will exhibit His agape love toward others. God doesn't expect that we will reach His kind of love perfectly. He wants to develop His love in our hearts slowly and progressively until we show His heart to others. God wants to enable us to love others in the way He loves us.
       Human love tends to be conditional. We have expectations of others and when they don't meet our expectations, we might turn off our love. In human love, decision follows emotion! But, God's agape love works exactly the opposite – emotion follows decision. We must decide to love as God loves in spite of the circumstances. The spiritual is always the opposite of the flesh and its ways. Agape love wills itself to work even in the face of fierce resistance or deep disappointment. Agape love chooses to love before there is an emotion and in spite of opposing emotions. It loves even in the face of betrayal and rejection. Jesus was surrounded with those who hated, rejected, beat, abused and stabbed Him, and He still died for them and asked the Father to forgive their sin.  Agape love will circumvent and change our fleshly inclinations of indifference, disgust, jealousy, anger, resentment, insecurity, superiority, judgment, blame, condemnation and hatred.
       Agape love is unexpected and undeserved. It exists without any reason. It is not dependent upon our beauty, intelligence, popularity or worthiness. It is given freely, fully and willingly in spite of anything we or others may do. It chooses to love in spite of opposing emotions, as God chooses to love us in spite of us and the times that we disappoint Him. Those who have hurt you, embarrassed you or taken something precious from you is the person you have least reason to love. But agape love says we must, and agape love will give us a power stronger than our desire for justice and vengeance—the Holy Spirit. Agape love will cause us to truly forgive. And only God can bring us to that place of forgiveness. Matthew 5:43-48: “You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes His sun to rise on the just and the unjust, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?” We are sons and daughters of God when we extend God's agape love to others. We have allowed God to put His agape love in our hearts and extend it to those who hurt us, just as He extends His love to us even though we are imperfect sinners who hurt His heart of love when we do the things He hates (sin).
      Satan cannot cast out satan! Darkness cannot drive out darkness. Hatred cannot drive out hatred. Unforgiveness cannot drive out unforgiveness. Jealousy cannot drive out jealousy. Anger cannot drive out anger. Vengeance cannot drive out vengeance. Bitterness cannot drive out bitterness......and so on and so on. Only the love of God in us can drive out these things. The Light and love of Jesus will drive out the works of the enemy who drives us to do these negative, hurtful things. There is no freedom in these negative emotions. They keep us bound because it is the devil working in and through us. These negative emotions are the complete opposite of God's love and ways outlined in 1 Corinthians 13. We must set those who hurt us free by not being bitter and angry. The way to freedom and being loosed from these things is the love of God in us toward those who spitefully use us. Luke 6:28: “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” These negative emotions divide and conquer. When we continue in these emotions, the devil is doing what he does best – divide, steal, conquer and destroy. The answer to Satan's quest to steal, kill and destroy is to allow the Holy Spirit and the Word of God lead and guide you. When we fight fire with fire, the end is destruction. But when we fight fire with the water of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God, the devil is defeated.
     One way we demonstrate agape love is by obedience to the Word of God. It is obedience to the Word of God that shows Jesus that we love Him. “Whoever has My commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me.” John 14:21

       God loves us because of who He is – LOVE. However, He doesn't always love what we do. This is where His discipline and correction will come. Why discipline? God wants us to experience life and His love fully as it was with Adam and the Woman before sin entered. Jesus was fully Man because He had no sin. Jesus lived life in the fullness that He and the Father want us to experience. This can only happen if we let go of sin in our lives and allow the Father, Son and Holy Spirit to put their love and ways in our hearts.  

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